My instrument is the piano. However, despite (or as a result of?) many years of classical training, I do not consider myself a serious session player. When I’m recording, I play what I need to play in bits and I edit my performances until they are what I hear in my head.
But I want to show you an example of a precision player.
Guitarist James Bryan tours with Nelly Furtado. He’s also a writer-producer and a member of The Philosopher Kings, Prozzak and Sunshine State. James is one of Canada’s top session guitarists. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him on my own material and some songs I’ve produced for other artists.
He doesn’t own an endless array of guitars and effects…just the basics are necessary. But this guy shows up at a session and upon listening to the song once, he can pretty much ascertain exactly what needs to be done: which guitar(s), how many overdubs, what rhythms will be best. Give him the first chord and he can map out the rest of the chord changes in a minute or two. His feel and musical instincts are incredible.
What really sets him apart, though, is his precision. This is someone who began playing his instrument obsessively as a small child and never gave up practicing. Each strum is effortlessly controlled in rhythm, velocity and expression. He often needs only one take; two takes at most for a particularly difficult passage.
Here’s an example of that precision: stereo acoustic rhythm guitars he recorded on a song for me. (I’ve muted everything but the drum track and his two acoustic guitars.)
No editing necessary: his performance is perfectly even on both sides. He’s a joy to work with. If you want to be a live touring musician or session player, aim for this degree of precision.